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Journey to Sambisa Forest (2)

It is unfortunate that  the Nigerian military, under  past administrations, failed to curb the notoriety of Boko Haram. Somehow, the military then was perceived by security administrators abroad as an organisation that should be kept at safe distance. Sadly, many leaders of the world refused to have any bilateral security relationship with Nigeria. No weapons were sold to the country officially,only from the back door. Gross indiscipline was reported often as was recently demonstrated at a court marshal session held in Maiduguri where a senior military officer and some junior officers were sentenced for gross act of insubordination. This writer witnessed the proceedings and marveled at how  the military then could have tolerated such indiscipline. Under the watch of  military service chiefs, obscure hooligans grew wings to become popular and morphed into a terrorist gang recognised world over, while funds allocated for   operations  and welfare  of the military were diverted into personal pockets. Arms and ammunition funds  were also reportedly diverted. For seven years, 2009 to 2015, the great Nigerian Army that was highly revered all over the world was belittled and scorned by the Boko Haram sect. In all, 17 local government areas in Borno State were completely  occupied by the sect, which moved ahead to sack police stations, DSS headquarters, military bases and even armories of virtually all the security agencies in the state. That was the unfortunate situation that was handed over to the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The new government moved early to appoint  Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, who at the time was serving outside the shores of the country. Today, the true leadership qualities of Buratai have tremendously helped to  restore the image and reinstate discipline in the military as well as dedication and service to the nation. Above all, Buratai has led the military in liberating all the local government areas previously occupied by the insurgents. Apart from these attributes, Buratai has further ensured welfare of both the soldiers at the warfront and  hope to the widows and families of  every fallen soldier. Nigerians cannot fail to applaud our soldiers for their recent attainment. To ignore them would be a disservice and an act of  ingratitude. Such uncharitable behaviour has unfortunately eaten deep into the nation, as we hardly appreciate hard work and selflessness. Must the government wait for the next rainy season before celebrating our war heroes?
My journey to Sambisa Forest afforded me ample opportunity to better appreciate what the Nigerian military, the Army and the Air Force, did to remove shame from the country. My journey to Sambisa further exposed me to the type of military Nigeria has. When critical situations crop up, the true personality and character of an institution and its leadership is revealed. In all, leadership counts when accessing an institution. When a leader is strong in character and has vision, the institution he is leading would be better for it. Driving from Bama to Sambisa is a completely different narrative that tells the story of what the Army, under Buratai, has done. At this time of the year, the climate of the area in Sambisa is hot, dry and dusty, with minimum temperatures of about 11 °C. As the military convoy moved through the lonely road that was tarred by the military, it became obvious that, apart from recapturing Sambisa forest, which, according to Wikipedia, is a vast uncultivated expanse of land, the military was about showing off its professionalism.  By the way, it is on record that Sambisa stretches into the northeastern tip of the west Sudanese Savannah, up to the Cameroun boarder into parts of the states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi, along the corridor of Darazo, Jigawa and some parts of Kano State farther north.  It is assumed that Sambisa is almost 13 times the size of Lagos State. As we drove through the military gate, dozens of  military armored vehicles were all over the place with armed personnel scattered all over the vast land like soldier ants. Everyone was fully engaged. While the Army’s small arms competitions was on-going with the shooting range in place, the surveillance helicopter and jets were in the air doing what they are good at. Indeed Nigeria’s military is a pride of the nation, a service that other security institutions should emulate. Now the question on the lips of many is, “what would the military do with Sambisa forest?” One expects government to complete the rehabilitation of Sambisa. Buratai offered some ideas along this line while presenting his speech  at the shooting competition. He envisions that the Sambisa forest especially “Camp Zero,” which was the headquarters of the Boko Haram, would be turned into a  museum or tourist attraction. He believes that the military would transform that part of the place to a military training and exercise ground and has, therefore, directed all the military commanders to avail themselves of the facilities already put in place. Envisaging that, before long, all the states around Sambisa and the federal government would join hands to transform that part of Nigeria into a historical  war forest. A forest where over 200 female students of a secondary school in Chibok were held captive by Boko Haram terrorists, where abducted ladies were assaulted sexually and heads severed as punishment for gross disobedience. A forest of fear, where captured men were drugged, hypnotised and indoctrinated in the beliefs of the killer sect. A forest of blood, where several combats ensued for the soul of Camp Zero.
(To be continued)
Security advice
1. When travelling by road to Maiduguri, Yobe and Yola, do not pick passengers along the highway, they may be Boko Haram members in disguise.
2. Residents in the North-East states should continue to be vigilant and report any suspicious person or activity to the nearest police station.

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